Debate: racial Profiling and Incitement to Hatred
Permanent Mission of Fiji to United Nations Geneva
Statement of Fiji at a panel discussion on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and debate on racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration
Human Rights Council
Fiji welcomes this opportunity to speak on racism and xenophobia, issues which have divided our nation since we became a British colony in 1874. Racism has been the cause of two military and civilian coups in our country.
Racism was institutionalized in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class, a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and class, and attitudes engrained in all communities, which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion.
The Fijian Government for the first time through Constitutional reform undertaken in 2013, declared that all citizens of Fiji have the right to be called Fijians. Previously, persons of different ethnic groups were defined not by a national identity, but by their ethnicity.
The Fijian Constitution not only enshrines fundamental principles and values such as a common and equal citizenry, secular State, the removal of systemic corruption, an independent judiciary, the elimination of discrimination, good governance, but also introduces for the first time, one person one vote one value and the elimination of the legal enforcement of ethnic voting.
Fundamentally, the Constitution establishes the principle that every Fijian is equal, and are known as “Fijians” rather than by their ethnicity. Unfortunately, this new provision was followed by an outburst of racist comments about whether members of other communities who were Fijian citizens had the right to be called “Fijian”.
Fiji has now embarked upon a path of substantive equality. This means asking what the barriers are to equality of access to all goods and services, from water, to the right to vote, to justice. This exercise requires a level of gender, disability and cultural competence. However, it also requires an ability to understand that poverty and disadvantage exists in all cultural groups, and that an understanding of
cultural practices and attitudes is necessary for an understanding of how multiple sources of discrimination often intersect.
We must move beyond the politics and discourse of race.
However, a challenge for Fiji is in finding out whether Government policies of equality in access to services, are successful in reaching all members of society. If our data is race blind because we do not want Government to be involved in racial profiling, how do we assess the success of our policies? How do we ensure that men and women and children throughout Fiji, regardless of racial origin are equally gaining access to food, water, housing and justice? We no longer wish to define our people in terms of their race and religion, but we do want to ensure that our policies are benefiting all members of society, and that possible racism in the provision of Government services is not undermining Government policy of substantive equality. We would value the thoughts of the panel on this dilemma.